- By Colleen McNamara
Last Friday, we uncovered the hidden gems of our home city in Montreal, Quebec. We discussed how some businesses cleverly invert the idea of local marketing, by using the allure of being a “secret” to locals as part of their unique pull to clientele.
With the rise of social media, keeping these spots “secret” isn’t as easy these days — but, interestingly, it gives businesses a particular added edge: when consumers “discover” the business, they’ll be that much more likely to share their savvy scouting skills with their networks. We discuss the idea of social proof at length right here, but essentially, the concept speaks to the idea that humans inevitably want to mimic the behaviours of their peers to achieve a sense of social acceptance and cohesion. The rise of social media has shaken the foundation of marketing — especially at the local level.
With that said, we’re revealing three of our favourite spots in our second home in Southern California. Sharing local favourites is part and parcel for the evolving local ecosystem; and besides, who doesn’t want great ideas on where to spend their weekend!?
1. The Crab Cooker
OK, so The Crab Cooker’s loud red exterior might not scream “hidden.” However, the unassuming, casual exterior successfully hides how seriously this place takes their seafood. They’re unapologetic about their fish-only menu (with a few sides, for good measure), and the interior space could easily double as your Grandmother’s living room — in a good way. When you enter, you’ll find smiling local faces digging into fresh fish, caught from the nearby waters.
2. Cream Pan Bakery
They say you can find the best pastries in Paris, but those in-the-know in Tustin, California, might have something different to say. A simplistic “Bakery & Cafe” sign marks the nondescript beige building on the corner of 6th Street and El Camino Real. You’ll likely see diners sitting outside on the tree-shaded veranda, sipping creamy cappuccino and biting into their world-famous strawberry croissant. The California street may not be La Sienne, but you’ll feel the joie de vivre when you stumble upon this discreet local gem.
Bluefin can be considered an outlier on this list — as its recent spike in popularity in the past couple of years has really jeopardized its “undercover gem” vibes. With that said, it’s still one of the must-try spots in the SoCal zone, especially because Takashi Abe’s plates are so photogenic, you’ll have Instagram posts for days after just one meal. Our ordering tip? Keep it simple, and keep it local: the sashimi is as fresh as it gets.